Will surveillance cameras help Kamloops schools in eliminating threats? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Will surveillance cameras help Kamloops schools in eliminating threats?

September 28, 2019 - 7:00 AM

KAMLOOPS - After a recent string of threats made to different Kamloops schools, school board officials have been considering how to prevent future incidents of a similar kind.

Kamloops-Thompson School Board trustees met earlier this week for an in-camera meeting to discuss the next steps. The board’s communication manager, Diana Skoglund, said the topic of surveillance cameras did come up, but wouldn’t confirm whether the board will be moving forward and installing any.

School boards have the authority to install and operate video surveillance systems, according to the B.C. School Act.  The act says the board may install surveillance cameras in a school facility or school property for the purposes of protecting individuals in the school, individual's belongings, and school property with the approval of a parents' advisory council. 

Although video surveillance cameras may help to catch wrongdoing after the fact, they are unlikely to be effective in preventing them, Caitlin Lemiski, director of policy, with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. says.

“I think a lot of people think that video surveillance (systems) solve problems but it doesn’t often,” Lemiski says.

In less than two weeks, six threats had been made against various Kamloops school. Two people have since been arrested including one youth and one 18-year-old man.

“In the case of a dangerous thing happening at a school it would help afterwards catching the bad guy but it wouldn’t prevent the bad event from happening,” Lemiski says.

Since laws around a school board’s legal authority to install surveillance systems changed nearly a decade ago, Chris Gillespie, a senior analyst with the office of the privacy commissioner, says he is only aware of one other district that has installed a surveillance system, though others may.

“They don’t need our permission to do it, but we do regulate the activity if a parent complains,” Lemiski says.

There are practical things public bodies should do when they set up cameras, Lemiski says.

“They only record in areas where there is known to be a problem, don’t record in sensitive areas like washrooms, sort of common sense things,” she says. “And in almost all cases, there really needs to be signage explaining what’s going on.”

In limited circumstances, such as a police investigation where a hidden camera is set up to catch criminal activity, signage isn’t needed, Lemiski says.

“For general surveillance that’s why we see signs everywhere that say ‘you are under surveillance, here is a number you can call if you have any questions’ and it’s actually in the law that you have to do that,” she says.

Public bodies obtaining surveillance systems also need to consider the protection against unauthorized access to information gathered from video surveillance.

“It has to be only for the people who need to see it,” she says.

In many cases, cameras bought for video surveillance are not adequately encrypted and they are easy to break into. Public bodies have a legal requirement to take reasonable security measures against unauthorized access.

“There are a lot of responsibilities that come with setting up surveillance cameras that public bodies have to take seriously.”


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